Section 50 investigations
Section 50 investigations relate to the independent broadcasters licensed by the BAI, “Contractors” and may commence when the Compliance Committee believes that a Contractor may not be providing a broadcasting service in accordance with the terms of its Broadcasting Contract with the BAI.
This may involve an investigation into the operational, programming, financial, technical or other affairs of a Contractor.
On foot of such an investigation, the Compliance Committee may recommend the suspension or termination of a Contractor’s broadcasting contract.
The Authority, on foot of a recommendation from the Compliance Committee, may suspend or terminate a contract following a section 50 investigation.
Section 53 investigations
Section 53 investigations apply to all broadcasters in the State (both independent licensed broadcasting services by the BAI and public service broadcasters, RTÉ and TG4) and may commence when the Compliance Committee is of the view that there may be apparent breach by the broadcaster of certain statutory requirements or a broadcasting code or rule. In the main, Section 53 investigations will relate to broadcast content.
A breach, for the purposes of a section 53 investigation, means a serious or repeated failure by a broadcaster to comply with any of those requirements.
Section 53 investigations will involve the appointment of an investigating officer who will issue a report to the Compliance Committee.
The Compliance Committee may find that there has been a breach by the broadcaster concerned, or that the broadcaster has failed to co-operate in an investigation, and recommend to the Authority that it notifies the broadcaster of its findings.
In such a case, the Authority will issue a notification to the broadcaster of the Compliance Committee’s decision and the process may ultimately result in the imposition of a financial sanction (not exceeding €250,000).
What is the difference between section 50 & section 53 investigations?
Section 50 concerns BAI Broadcasting Contractors only; it relates to the compliance of these Contractors with the terms of its Broadcasting Contract entered into with the BAI.
Section 53 concerns compliance by all broadcasters licensed in the State with particular requirements set down in the Broadcasting Act 2009; both BAI Broadcasting Contractors and the public service broadcasters licensed by Government.
Some apparent compliance issues may relate to both content and the terms of a Broadcasting Contractor’s contract and could be investigated under either section of the Act. In deciding on whether an investigation should be undertaken pursuant to section 50 or 53, the Compliance Committee will consider the nature and extent of the apparent non-compliance and the Contractor involved.
The powers of investigation and sanction differ between each of the relevant sections.
Statutory Investigations Undertaken
To date, the BAI has undertaken one Statutory investigation under the 2009 Act.
Further to section 53, the BAI Compliance Committee decided, in November 2011, to commence an investigation into the RTÉ Prime Time Investigates programme, “Mission to Prey”, broadcast on the 23rd May 2011: –
The Broadcasting Act 2009, sections 50 and 53, provides for the Compliance Committee of the BAI to initiate statutory investigations where there is apparent non-compliance by a broadcaster or broadcasting contractor.